Photo of the Week. The great Andromeda Nebula is a
galaxy like ours some 2.5
million light years away. The blue color comes from hot young
stars, the red from older stars. A pair of smaller elliptical
galaxies, NGC 205 and M 32, respetively hover above and below.
Courtesy of Mark Killion.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 30, 2007.
Skylights now resumes its normal weekly schedule.
Welcome to the end of November, gateway to December and the coming
passage of the Sun over the Winter
Solstice the night of December 21, after which we begin the
long journey back to spring.
To celebrate, the Moon begins to fade
away as it passes its last quarter on
Saturday, December 1. It then spends the rest of the week waning
in the crescent phase, rising ever later
until it sinks into dawn as it approaches new on Sunday the 9th.
At the end of the week, on Thursday the 6th, it passes apogee,
where it is farthest from the Earth. Near the beginning of our
week, on the morning of Saturday the 1st, the Moon passes a couple
degrees to the south of Saturn. Later
in the week, watch the waning crescent take on Virgo's Spica and Venus. The
morning of Tuesday the 4th finds the Moon rather well to the west
(up and to the right) of the star, while on the following morning,
the slimming Moon will appear below Spica and nicely to the right
of the planet. Note the contrast: though Spica is first magnitude,
Venus is 120 times brighter.
Passing conjunction with the Sun in
late December, Jupiter is now gone from view. You'll be able to
pick it up in morning skies in late January or early February. But
no matter, since in the evening we have glorious Mars to admire.
Retrograding in western Gemini, almost as bright as the brightest star, Mars
now rises in the northeast just as evening twilight draws to a
close. Just northeast of the Summer
Solstice, the planet is almost as far north as it will get, and
therefore rides high as it crosses the meridian around 2 AM.
As evening's Mars climbs higher, watch for the rising of Saturn
around 11:30 PM, the planet now south of the main body of Leo, and rather well to the southeast
of Leo's Regulus. Venus then
finally pops up brilliantly around 3:30 AM.
Andromeda takes center stage
in early evening. The constellation's graceful curve of stars
takes off from the northeast corner of the Great Square of Pegasus and heads further northeast toward Mirfak,
Alpha Persei, near which you will find the comet. To the south of
Mirfak lies Algol, one of the sky's
variables, the star dropping from second magnitude to nearly
fourth every 2.9 days as a small bright component partially hides
behind a dimmer, larger one. Look to the northwest of central Andromeda to find
Messier 31, the Andromeda Nebula (see above), a galaxy like ours some 2.5
million light years away and the most distant thing you can see
with the naked eye.